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Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science.

Common DNA Markers Can Account for More Than Half of the Genetic Influence on Cognitive Abilities

Robert Plomin, Claire M. A. Haworth, Emma L. Meaburn, Thomas S. Price, Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, and Oliver S. P. Davis

Although past research has shown that cognitive ability is heritable, it has proved difficult for genome-wide association studies to identify the genetic variants that account for this heritability. The researchers examined the genetic profile and cognitive abilities of individuals from the Twins Early Development Study and calculated estimates for the heritability of cognitive ability using traditional twin-study techniques and also using genome-wide complex-trait analysis (GCTA). GCTA estimates accounted for on average .66 of the twin heritability estimates for the four cognitive traits examined. This finding suggests that using larger sample sizes may allow researchers to identify genetic variants that account for about two-thirds of the heritability of cognitive abilities.

Visual Working Memory Modulates Rapid Eye Movements to Simple Onset Targets

Andrew Hollingworth, Michi Matsukura, and Steven J. Luck

Does visual working memory (VWM) modulate rapid reflexive eye movements (saccades) in the absence of stimulus competition? Participants were shown a color and asked to keep it in their VWM while performing a task in which they had to orient their gaze to a target disk. The disk was the same or a different color from the one in VWM and appeared alone or with a distractor. Participants’ saccades were more accurate and had shorter latencies when the target matched the color held in VWM. Saccades also landed closer to the distractor than to the target when the distractor matched the color in VWM. This suggests that modulation of eye movements by VWM is not limited to situations in which there is stimulus competition.

Gender Differences in Multitasking Reflect Spatial Ability

Timo Mäntylä

Are there differences in men’s and women’s ability to multitask? To determine this, the author assessed participants’ spatial and executive functioning abilities before they took part in a multitasking session. Male participants were better than female participants at multitasking, which was found to be primarily due to their superior spatial abilities. Because stages of women’s menstrual cycles are reportedly related to changes in their spatial abilities, the author examined whether female participants’ menstrual cycle stages would affect their ability to multitask. Female and male participants were found to have similar multitasking abilities when female participants were in the menstrual — but not luteal — phase of their cycle. This study indicates that gender differences in multitasking reflect gender differences in spatial ability.